Friday night, a dark and cold winter evening. Six rustic wood tables sit in a bush clearing in the middle of the Australian countryside. Candles are on each table. A few strings of fairy lights are stretched above the tables, loosely attached to gum trees. The smell of eucalyptus gives the air a fresh clean smell.
Small bonfires surround the outskirts of the tables, creating an atmospheric enclosure and providing warmth. The flickering light is dim and only enables us to see the table next to us but no further. The pagan tone is seductive. Our bonfire circle, the twinkling stars, and table arrangement in the middle of nowhere is our Stonehenge. Tonight food is our god and we shall worship it justly.
This is “Feast in the Field” at Tree Tops, Victoria – an outdoor dining experience that takes place in the local bush area every six months. Australia does food very well. Rural Australia does it superbly.
The feast begins and the banquet is brought to us:
- Pork bone broth, kale crisps
- Dorper lamb, verjus and parsnip
- Hereford beef brisket, heirloom beets and carrots
- Berkshire pork loin, celeriac and kohl rabi remoulade, crispy pork skin
- Koshi rice pudding, quince and vanilla
I’m on a table of 10. Seated directly around me are:
- Kesenya, my colleague and friend
- Chloe, a talkative, entertaining, and accomplished woman
- Don and Jo, local “Restdown” vineyard and winery owners who lived in London for a decade (so it’s a pleasure and relief to talk to them).
Both Chloe and Don are guitarists so much of the conversation is about music. It’s a fitting topic as the sound of crackling bonfires and clinking glasses is overlaid by the singing of Tyler Hudson (local musician and contestant on X Factor, Australia). His performance enriches the event.
We eat, we drink, we talk. It’s both a calm and stimulating evening.
Despite the pagan setting and atmosphere, there’s no burning of the Wicker Man (that I witnessed), no naked dancing (that I took part in), no druids (or anyone wearing a hoodie), and no animal sacrifices (well, none that weren’t eaten with appreciation and gratitude). But it’s a magical night.
“Feast in the Field” was catered by Lauren Mathers from “Bundarra Berkshires” (who provided the pork for the event).
Local producers and Red Gum Food Group farmers grew all the food for the evening.
Don and Jo Hearn from “Restdown Wines” provided the organic beef (good wine and good beef go well together).
Other suppliers include: Peninsular Fresh Organics, Jonesys Milk, Plains Paddock Lamb, Belmont Biodynamic Produce, and Delicious Vanilla.